Skip to main content
California Department of Education Logo

FERPA Summary Page

Summary information regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a complex federal law addressing the privacy of students’ educational records. This page provides a brief summary of some of FERPA’s key concepts and provides links to outside resources that may provide additional information. Interpretations of the FERPA law should not be made without legal counsel.

Parental Rights Under FERPA to Inspect, Review, and Request Amendment of Education Records

FERPA gives parents/guardians certain rights regarding their child(ren)'s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of eighteen or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are considered "eligible students."

Except under certain specified circumstances, FERPA affords parents/guardians or eligible students the right to inspect and review the student’s education records. Parents/guardians or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records that they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school does not amend the record as requested, the school must offer the parent/guardian or eligible student a hearing on the matter.

More information on rights under FERPA can be found on the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Family Policy Compliance Office's Web page at FERPA General Guidance for Families External link opens in new window or tab..

Exceptions to Written Parental Consent Requirement

Records may be disclosed by the school or the district to the California Department of Education (CDE), as the State educational authority, without prior written consent if the disclosure is in connection with:

  • An audit or evaluation of federal or state-supported education programs
  • The enforcement of or compliance with federal legal requirements relating to such programs
  • Records may be disclosed without prior written consent under certain other circumstances, including the following:
    • Disclosures to other school officials, including teachers, within the district whom the school or district has determined to have legitimate educational interests
    • Disclosures, subject to certain restrictions, to officials of another school, school system, or institution of postsecondary education where the student seeks or intends to enroll, or where the student is already enrolled as long as the disclosure is for purposes related to the student's enrollment or transfer
    • Disclosures to organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, schools or districts to:
      • Develop, validate, or administer predictive tests
      • Administer student aid programs
      • Improve instruction
    • Disclosures in connection with a health or safety emergency
    • Disclosures of appropriate information regarding specified disciplinary actions to teachers and school officials, including those in other schools, who have legitimate educational interests in the behavior of the student

The school or district may disclose directory information from education records without consent as long as it has notified parents/guardians and eligible students of the:

  • Types of information the school or district has designated as directory information
  • Right of parents/guardians and eligible students to opt out of disclosure of directory information

Directory information can include the student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance.

Only schools or districts may disclose directory information but only after parents/guardians are notified and given an opportunity to refuse such disclosure. Parents/guardians should check the school’s parent handbook or contact the local school district for local policies on disclosure of student directory information.

A school, district, the CDE, or any party that is authorized to receive personally identifiable information from education records may release the records or information without the required written consent if all personally identifiable information has been removed. Authorized parties must make a reasonable determination that a student's identity is not personally identifiable, considering single or multiple releases and taking into account other reasonably available information. This determination must be made before releasing individual or summary student information.

Complaints about procedures regarding privacy of student educational records may be filed with the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO), U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20201.

Informal inquiries may be sent to the FPCO through the following e-mail addresses: ferpa@ed.gov and ppra@ed.gov.

Outside FERPA Resources
  • Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), Early Childhood Data Privacy Page External link opens in new window or tab. – This page provides guidance from the ED on complying with FERPA in early childhood settings such as preschools.
  • PTAC Guidance Videos External link opens in new window or tab. (WMV) – This page links to short videos that provide guidance on various aspects of FERPA including directory information and developing a district-level student data privacy program.
  • Student Privacy 101: FERPA for Parents and Students External link opens in new window or tab. – This 4:03 minute video provides an overview of FERPA.
  • FERPA General Guidance for Parents External link opens in new window or tab. –This is a compilation of letters and guidance documents that have been drafted by the ED in response to frequently-asked FERPA questions.
  • FERPA Sherpa Student Privacy Resource Center External link opens in new window or tab. – This resource developed and maintained by the nonprofit Future of Privacy Forum focuses on student data privacy and provides information from a variety of sources.
  • FERPA Exceptions Summary External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) – This chart, published by the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), outlines four circumstances under which the sharing of student data might be permitted without parental consent.
  • Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) Guidance External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) – This document provides federal guidance to states and local educational agencies (LEAs) and other interested parties to implement the USA amendment to FERPA.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or FERPA Guidance Health Information Privacy External link opens in new window or tab. – This document provides guidance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on health records in educational settings.
  • The PTAC’s Webinar on the Intersection of FERPA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Confidentiality Provisions Intersection of FERPA & Part B of IDEA Confidentiality Provisions External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) – This Webinar provides guidance from the ED on complying with disability laws in educational settings.
  • The U.S. Department of Education’s IDEA and FERPA Confidentiality Provisions Comparison External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) – This Webinar provides guidance from the ED on confidentiality clauses that comply with disability laws in educational settings.
  • Transparency Best Practices for Schools and Districts External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)– This document from the PTAC provides federal guidance on promoting transparency when complying with FERPA’s annual parental notification requirements.
  • Identity Authentication Best Practices External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) – This document from the PTAC provides guidance for verifying the identity of data requestors and accurately evaluating data access rights under FERPA.
  • Written Agreement Checklist External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF) – This document from the PTAC summarizes the requirements for written agreements under the studies exception and the audit or evaluation exception as specified in FERPA.

Find more information on the privacy of student records collected and maintained by the CDE on the Data Privacy Home page.

Questions:   Educational Data Management Division/Education Data Office | privacy@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0586
Last Reviewed: Thursday, October 6, 2016
Trending in Data Privacy
Recently Posted in Data Privacy
No items posted in the last 60 days.